Miami Reading Report

As I headed off to Miami last Thursday, I thought to myself “This is a chance to get so much reading done.” Well, I spent most of my time there eating, drinking, people watching (I counted 56 Humvees) and enjoying the 75 degree weather. I did get two books read however.

The first book was a fun, light first novel by Lisa Lutz called The Spellman Files. Imagine growing up in a family of private investigators. By the time she was 12 years old, Izzy Spellman was tailing people for her parents’ cases. At 28, she works full time investigating people for her parents’ firm Spellman Investigations. The Spellmans also spend a lot of time investigating each other. The main plot is not important. What makes this book enjoyable are the characters and the way they interact. Lutz has begun a smart and funny new series that both Mr. Bookdwarf and I enjoyed.

I picked the next book because the author, Mischa Berlinksi, also studied Classics. His debut novel Fieldwork, however, has nothing to do with the subject. Rather it’s a book that moves across several genres: travelogue, historical novel, thriller. set in Thailand, the narrator, also named Mischa Berlinski, works as a freelance writer while living with his school teacher girlfriend Rachel. He hears from his friend Josh about the suicide of Martiya van der Leun, an American anthropologist, in a Thai jail, where she was serving 50 years for murder. Intrigued, Berlinski takes up the story and spends the rest of the book investigating the story. Who did she murder and why? He explores both van der Leun’s family and the family of the victim. While they use the word thriller to describe the book, I didn’t find it a traditional “thriller”. Berlinski excels at painting a portrait of a person in a specific time and place, but staggers a bit at moving the plot along. I enjoyed the amount of detail he uses to describe some of the more rural parts of Thailand.